At the start of the 2011 college baseball season, I went immediately to the Rice University schedule, trying to see if Anthony Rendon would be anywhere near me during the 2011 season. Rice was playing Marshall (4 hours, 15 minutes away), but unfortunately the game was a home game. Then I saw that Rice was playing East Carolina, at East Carolina. That’s five hours away, but luckily my best friend lives in the Raleigh area, and doesn’t mind me crashing at his place while I make the one hour drive to ECU for each game.
At the time, I was looking at this as an opportunity to see the guy who was the consensus choice for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2011 draft. I was going to be snapping some photos, which would eventually be used on the cover of the 2012 Prospect Guide. I was going to get some video, giving everyone a look at the guy who would eventually be drafted by the Pirates. I was going to get an interview, getting his thoughts on having back to back amazing seasons, and being the consensus number one prospect in the draft.
Then, two things happened. One, Rendon struggled with a shoulder injury, and saw his offensive numbers drop for various reasons. Two, Gerrit Cole stepped up in a big way, and is being called by some as the top overall prospect in the draft, surpassing Rendon.
I’ll still be going to East Carolina this weekend. I’ll still be getting video of Rendon, but there’s no longer a guarantee that this video is of a future Pirates prospect. I’ll still be getting photos, but there’s no longer a guarantee that those photos end up on the 2012 Prospect Guide. I’ll still be getting an interview, only instead of talking about his great season, I’ll be asking him about his shoulder, his low power numbers, the new bats, and whether he has been pitched around.
If you’ve read the site, you know I still like Rendon. I believe he’s suffering from a lack of protection in the lineup. Consider this: since Jeremy Rathjen went down for the season, Rendon has walked in 41.1% of his plate appearances. That’s 30 walks in 73 plate appearances. Just for reference on that, in 2004, when no one would pitch to Barry Bonds and he walked 232 times, he drew a walk in 37.6% of his plate appearances. Rendon even has more walks (11) than at-bats (8) in his first four games in the month of April. Even more amazing, he has more walks on the season (47) than hits (40), and he currently has a .370 average.
What once looked like a trip to get a look at a guy who would be the next big Pirates prospect is now a trip to get a look at a guy and see whether he should be the next big Pirates prospect. I’ll be providing updates all weekend, both on Twitter (@pirateprospects), and on the site, with daily recaps, plus video and an interview, both of which will go up early next week. I will also be seeing Austin Kubitza, the Pirates’ seventh round pick from the 2010 draft, on Friday night. I’ll be interviewing him as well, following up on the draft (the last time I interviewed him, he was still undecided about signing), and talking about his great season so far with Rice.
And this is the point where I make the plug that all of this is made possible by the 2011 Prospect Guide. If you like the coverage you’ve seen on the site in the last few weeks (the Spring Training coverage, the minor league season previews, the player features, the interviews, and now the Rendon trip), and you’d like to see more, or just want to support the site, go to the Products page and order your copy of the 2011 Prospect Guide and the 2011 Annual (get a discount when you order both at the same time).
The schedule for Rendon and Cole this weekend:
6:00 PM EST – Rice (Rendon) at ECU
8:30 PM EST – UCLA (Cole) at Washington State
3:00 PM EST - Rice (Rendon) at ECU
10:30 AM EST – Rice (Rendon) at ECU
People to follow on Twitter for updates: